Comedy is changing—it’s getting sharper and wittier, demanding more from actors and from the audience.
Directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan M. Goldstein’s slick and smart Game Night is a reflection on the evolution of the genre and where it is headed. Married couple and game night enthusiasts Max (Jason Bateman) and Annie (Rachel McAdams) are right in their element when Max’s big brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) invites them and a group of their friends to a murder mystery party. However, the fun and games get a bit more extreme than anyone bargain for.
Married couple Michelle and Kevin, played by Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris respectively, are one of the couples who find themselves swept up in Brooks’ high-stakes game. Trying to get the upper hand in the competition unveils some hilarious truths about their marriage. Ahead of Game Night’s premiere, I sat down to chat with Bunbury and Morris in Los Angeles about bringing screenwriter Mark Perez’s magical script to life and why this particular kind of comedy is an actor’s dream.
For Morris who just wrapped the final season of New Girl, comedy swirls in his blood. Bunbury, on the other hand, has mostly taken on dramatic roles, so Game Night was an entirely new adventure for her. “I loved the fact that it was really funny, but it had this thriller aspect to it,” the Pitch actress recalled. “I also love to play games, so I thought that was really interesting, and I just love the ensemble aspect of it.”
“I felt the same way,” Morris explained. “When you read comedy it’s rare that you will laugh at the whole thing. A lot of times you’ll find these moments, and , ‘I can probably punch this up if I decide to do this.’ When I read the script the first time, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I want to be in this.’ Funny enough, the first time I read the script, I was helping a friend audition for one of the roles. Long story short, I ended up getting a call for it too. I was like, ‘Oh, I gotta take this role brother I apologize.’”
Mark Perez was clear about his desire to combine his skills as a comedy writer with elements of horror and action. For the Accepted writer, the tonal beats of Jordan Peele’s Get Out were a significant inspiration for Game Night. Because the script already packed a punch, Morris wasn’t afraid to throw his whole arsenal of impersonations in the mix. “You’re testing the movie to see which ones play better with different audiences,” he reflected on one particular joke that runs throughout the film. “I was doing impressions from the beginning, and I guess they found mileage in that. So they said ‘Let’s run with that’ and they did a rewrite. We had to reshoot and the rest is history. I don’t want to spoil anything.”
Playing a married couple was a piece of cake for the actors, especially since their chemistry and playfulness seemed to ping off of one another. “I think everyone has been commenting on our chemistry in the film, and I think we do balance each other out,” Bunbury explained. “I think its brilliant casting on their part. We also did a chemistry read before we were cast in this, so they could see our dynamic. We play well, we balance each other out, and we help elevate each other in certain areas.”
“It’s a give and take,” Morris added. “Especially in comedy, you have to have someone on the level, and then someone that’s out of their minds a little bit. In order for that person who’s out of their mind to get a laugh, you need to want to be the voice of the audience that goes, ‘What are you doing? Why are you climbing this thing, why are you trying to do this?’ It’s great. I think most of the couples in the movie have that dynamic.”
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